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GNWT hit with $1.2M claim for alleged 'sex assaults' at Yellowknife jail

A Yellowknife man who spoke out about dozens of alleged sexual encounters between himself and staff as an inmate at North Slave Correctional Complex (NSCC) is seeking more than $1 million in damages from the GNWT, citing “systemic failures” that allowed abuse to take place behind the jail’s walls.

Kelly Canadian, 26, is claiming $1,250,000 in total damages from the territorial government – which oversees the Yellowknife jail and Correction Services – claiming he suffered “mental anguish,” “humiliation, embarrassment and betrayal,” after a NSCC employee “violated him physically, sexually, emotionally and spiritually,” court files show.

The claim accuses the staff member of using his unique position of trust and authority over Canadian to “sexually abuse” him 30 to 40 times.

The employee named in the claim isn’t being identified by Yellowknifer at this time due to the early stage of the civil action.

The “sexual assaults,” according to the claim, allegedly took place over the course of three sentences Canadian was serving at NSCC between February 2016 and May 2017.

He detailed the alleged inappropriate encounters in a series of interviews with News/North late last year.

Canadian said the experiences left him “angry and confused.”

Facebook photo.
Kelly Canadian, 26.

In emails obtained by News/North, Canadian reported the employee named in the claim, along with another staff member, around the same time he spoke out about the alleged encounters. He said the report resulted in both staff members, including the employee named in the claim, being suspended. A spokesperson for the Department of Justice confirmed two employees were suspended with pay, but refused to identity them or give updates on a subsequent investigation, calling the matter a "human resources issue."


'Irreparable physical, emotional and spiritual harm'

“As a direct result of the sexual abuse … for which the (GNWT) was directly and vicariously negligent, (Canadian) has suffered acute and irreparable physical, emotional and spiritual harm ... ,” states the claim, submitted by Steven Cooper, Canadian’s legal representation.

As operators of NSCC, the claim submits the GNWT is “vicariously liable for the actions” of the employee, who took advantage of “serious systemic” shortfalls at the jail to “sexually assault” Canadian and actively avoid detection. The GNWT, the claim states, did not ensure the safety and protection of Canadian, resulting in the breach of trust.

Canadian alleges he was coerced into acts of oral sex and masturbation when he was alone with the employee. He told News/North there were no security cameras present in the employee’s office, a point alluded to in the claim.

It’s alleged the accused staff member would take steps to evade detection by engaging Canadian when they were alone, in areas with no security cameras.

The GNWT, according to the statement of claim, failed to properly vet employees providing services to inmates at NSCC, and failed to ensure the proper oversight policies were in place in order to ensure Canadian’s protection and well being.

By putting Canadian in the care and control of the staff member in question, the GNWT “allowed (the employee) to take actions that were designed to keep secret the existence of the relationship … and the abuse suffered by (Canadian),” states the claim.

The jail employee, the claim alleges, “coerced (Canadian) into not disclosing the abuse by offering to provide supportive letters related to his incarceration …”

The claim states that at a “time known to the defendant, NSCC became aware of the relationship.”

As a result of the alleged relationship, Canadian has been left with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and a loss of self-esteem, states the claim.

The statement of claim says Canadian experiences distressful recurring flashbacks, “lasting psychological and emotional trauma,”and an inability to enjoy life.

He now resents “correctional settings” and is no longer able to trust authority figures, the claim states.

The claim states Canadian's Indigenous identity “further increased his vulnerability to be targeted by the sexual abuse,” of the accused employee.

Within $1.2 million claim, Canadian is seeking $50,000 for future counseling and $100,000 for future the loss of income.

This will not be the first time Canadian has filed a grievance against the jail .He said he experienced harassment from jail guards after being sentenced for theft and assault in September 2016. Canadian told CBC that staff repeatedly hurled homophobic slurs at him. While incarcerated, he filed a complaint with the NWT Human Rights Commission.

Canadian received $5,000 after his case was settled out of court, the CBC report stated. By going public, Canadian reportedly breached a confidentiality clause within the settlement, which could result in him having to return the money he was awarded.

The territorial government has 30 days to respond to the claim.